Róisín Nestor looks at drug driving and the response to it by authorities.
For years, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) campaigns echoed from our radios and televisions: ‘Never Ever Drink and Drive’. Now we are starting to hear more phrases like ‘When you’re stoned, even the simple things are hard’.
Attention has turned to drug driving and in November 2014 the RSA launched their fourth anti-drug driving campaign.
In the data released by the National Drug-Related Deaths Index, of the 476 deaths between 1998 and 2005 caused by drugs, 20 per cent were as a result of road traffic collisions. The consequences of driving while under the influence of drugs are clear.
Some people will argue these points, saying it’s okay to drive on certain drugs but not others. Less than 50 per cent of 17 to 34 year olds believe that driving under the influence of cannabis is ‘very unacceptable’, according to figures released by the Road Safety Authority.
Although cannabis is generally regarded as a relatively harmless drug, it’s still not safe to drive while high.
The chemical that causes the high in cannabis is called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC disturbs areas in your brain (cerebellum and basal ganglia for any fact fanatics) that control your balance, posture, coordination and reaction time. You’re also a lot more likely to drift or weave on the road.
When under the influence of cocaine or ecstasy, your coordination and judgement can also be affected. Both drugs are stimulants which means your emotions and movements will be exaggerated. Cocaine also gives you increased feelings of confidence, making you more likely to take risks on the road.
In general, you’re slower to react in the case of an emergency and your concentration is poor. Depending on the drug and your reactions to it, you may also experience blurred vision, hallucinations or panic attacks.
Still think it's okay to drug drive?
Some do. I asked a college student, who preferred not to be named, about his experiences of driving under the influence of drugs.
“Your head doesn’t agree with the logical thought of not driving and you just feel confident,” he said when asked why he does it.
He agreed that it’s easier to drive when not taking drugs. “I feel my driving is different when I’m sober as it’s easier to focus on the road.”
A spokesperson from the Road Safety Authority told me that, “Many drivers underestimate the influence that drugs can have on their driving competence and we will look to highlight this through our campaigns now and in the future.”
So what actually happens when the Gardaí pull you over and suspect you’re under the influence of drugs? The Roadside Impairment Testing have allowed the Gardaí the authority to carry out more advanced tests.
These new tests include a pupil dilation test, a balance test, walk and turn test, one leg stand and a finger to nose test. If a driver is involved in a crash, the Gardaí are also permitted to take a blood sample, in order to test for drugs.
Before you sit behind the wheel and convince yourself that your driving skills won’t be impaired by drugs, take a look at what the evidence suggests.
And if you convince yourself that you are can deal with the consequences, think of the other people whose lives you could potentially destroy forever.
Photo: Thomas Anderson/ Flickr
Photo: Thomas Anderson/ Flickr